Enough Already

Snow has been a pain in my rear this winter.  In the past five days, we’ve had two missed school days and one late start.  We had to cancel DH’s Christmas party due to icy roads and the internet and cable hibernated on Saturday. 

Enough Already!

Which makes me wonder, do editors and agents feel this way about our deluge of manuscripts? 

Today I checked out the Kidlit blog this morning to refresh the rules for the first chapter contest.  I browsed the comments, trying to size up the competition and saw a few questions that made me wonder just how attentive we writers are to submission guidelines. 

My guess is not very. 

Every once in a while, an agent or editor might be delighted with an unexpected submission.  However, my guess is that more often than not, they get as crabby as a mom with four school age kids after the fifth week in a row of snow days. 

In short, it gets tiresome to field queries that don’t follow basic guidelines.  To review:

  1. Unless you are writing non-fiction or are a super-star, do not query an incomplete manuscript.  Period. 
  2. Do not submit the minute you complete your manuscript.  Manuscripts need rounds of edits and “just finished my first novel” is a sure sign not to sign.
  3. Send only what is asked for.  We are in love with our own writing and want everyone to see it in its entirety.  Quash the urge.  Go to agent or editor websites and find out what they want sent and how they want it to arrive on their desks.  A snail query to e-queries only is a waste of trees and agent patience.
  4. Don’t tout your first place win for the International Society of Poets in your bio.  Everyone owns the plaque and has been invited to spend their money on $60 anthologies of really bad poetry.  If you don’t have writing credits, it’s okay.  There are agents and editors hungry to find the newest best-selling author. 
  5. Likewise, don’t tell them your grandmother loves your manuscript more than her nightly martini.  She’s your grandma (insert at leisure: kids, mom, spouse, best friend, neighbor) and will lie to stay on the Christmas list. 
  6. For the love of all things holy, do not send a picture book to a YA contest or a romance novel to a horror agent.  To do so is to clutter up cyber space and eat up everyone’s time.  It’s like adding six inches of snow to a forty mile an hour wind.  Unless you’re God, don’t do it.
  7. Know the very basics of manuscript formatting should you include more than a query letter.  Most websites that cater to writers (including agency and publishing house sites) have sections devoted to double spacing, one inch margins, chapter breaks, cover pages and fancy fonts.  If you don’t know these things, check out Agent Query asap.

Please follow these basic guidelines to keep the slush at a minimum.  In the long run, it should help staunch the blizzard of queries to agents and editors.  This should lighten their moods and make them more apt to read all of our queries more closely.  Henceforth giving writers a better chance of actually having their manuscript requested, read and repped. 

Willy nilly submission practices only garner rejections.

If we all do our part, we can stop the hands-in-the-air, enough-already expletives from those we wish to woo. 

Have you made rooky mistakes when querying?  What tips can you provide other writers to help the right manuscripts make it to the right desk?

19 responses to “Enough Already

  1. Cat, I’m nowhere near ready to submit my manuscript yet, but I am following all of these posts eagerly. It’s like going to Query school for a year until the time comes to try for myself! I love how much information is available these days to help us know exactly what steps agents want us to take.

    And here’s to responsible querying by all!

  2. Well said Cat!!! I read some of those questions too and was flabbergasted!!! Really? Did you really just ask those questions that were clearly outlines in the rules? I mean, REALLY?

    • Shawna,

      I outright snorted at some, but then I tried to focus on the fact that this is typical behavior, rather than being the exception. I just don’t think people pay close enough attention to the details.

      I have heard that this is how the majority of manuscripts get tossed in a coontest–simply not following the rules. Are you entering?

  3. I’ve made soooo many queries and luckily, I read posts like yours before I sent any of them. I still cringe when I hear people say stuff like, “but if I print it on pink paper, it’s sure to be noticed!” I read a post the other day about not putting questions about the plot in queries, like, “Will she move on to new love, or stay with the same old lizard?” or some such. I never heard of agents not liking this before, but I guess if they get too many of them, they start disliking anything. Sometimes, I feel like agents/editors have pet peeves that they just don’t tell us about.

    • Yes, many agents and editors have written about the question in the query and how they dislike it as a general rule. I write my blog on the basis that this info is all the things I wish had been available ten years ago when I started writing.

      Oh well, better late than never! There are so many good blogs and websites out there with great information. I fell blessed to be able to have the opportunity to read so widely.

  4. Its just broadly true that people don’t read and pay attention to anything even slightly resembling a detail. I cannot believe how many people apply for jobs without including all of the “stuff” that is required. Really? Truly? Do you not recognize that in this economy employers need every avenue to weed out the 1000 applicants? Your inability to be precise is great reason for me to NOT hire you.

    Like the above commentors, I love your blog, too. While I am not a writer, I do learn something nearly every day. Plus, its the closest tabs I’ve had on you in years!

    • Thanks, Becca.

      It warms my heart to know you read this–and amazes me that you learn anything! Sometimes I wonder if I write just because I can and would likely explode if I didn’t. My blog has been a great outlet. I hope you continue to enjoy it.

      And yes, it is crazy how many people do things half-way. My dad always said never to do a half-a$$ed job. I guess in this economy it translates to half-a$$sed equals no job!

  5. Patricia said exactly what I was going to say! As for individual guidelines, try to imagine you’re looking through your morning paper. You know how it’s laid out, where to find the sections you like most, what they look like and what they’re called. This is because it’s formatted in a consistent way – so you can get straight to the content. Try to find the same material in a different paper and you have to waste loads of time trying to work out what their formatting criteria are.
    Agents want uniform presentation for the same reason – to get to the nub of your book as fast as possible. Good post!

  6. Good advice! Although if everyone follow it, it will eliminate some of those incredibly funny posts by agents & publishing people about what people send them 🙂

  7. Thanks for restating the rules though I expect that those who really need to know this information aren’t reading blogs like yours.

    I would take some of your snow. We’ve had very little, and no snow cover is not a good thing for garlic, winter wheat, etc.

    • Ah, yes. The agriculture cycle. I didn’t know that garlic needed snow though. I have been wanting to plant some and haven’t done so yet. Sounds like I need to do a little research before digging.

      You are likely right about the blog reading. And, I suspect good old fashioned book reading as well. Just last night on HGTV, a home buyer stated nonchalantly how he was going to write his first book this year and wanted an “inspiring view” from his office to do so. I suspect he has no clue how difficult it is to actually complete a book. Much less have a strong story, good editing skills and lots o’ patience. I don’t think many people actually know that slapping something on paper doesn’t automatically have Barnes and Noble knocking on your door!

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